Remembrance Sunday

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

John McCrae, wrote these lines in May 1915 after presiding over the burial of his friend.  He was a Canadian army surgeon and he himself died three years later, of pneumonia while still commanding the Canadian military hospital at Boulogne.

The bloodshed on Flanders fields is not new.  In July 1693, 27,000 men were slaughtered in a single day at Landen.  They included Patrick Sarsfield an iconic historical figure, with strong associations to this town.  The Flemish soil is soaked with the blood of soldiers fighting on behalf of causes they barely comprehended. And the poppies sprang up then, just as they did in 1915.

Of the 210,000 Irishmen who enlisted in the First World War, at least 35,000 died, although the real death toll might be much larger.  The number shown on the National War Memorial is 49,400.  Many more came home broken, physically, mentally or both, and among them was an ancestor of my own.  Every year on this day, I honour his memory because he is of me and I am of him, even though I never knew him..

Clouds are once again gathering over Europe, and we would do well to take note.  Yet again, vast economic forces are tearing the great powers of the continent apart and although we no longer have dominant Kaisers, Czars and kings, we have the modern equivalent in the form of international financiers, hedge funds and currency speculators, some of whom have the leading politicians in their pockets.

The European Coal and Steel Community was set up to make sure that never again would neighbours tear at each others’ throats, yet now we see that same community, evolved into the EU, starting to display the sort of cracks and strains that could result in a highly dangerous polarisation of political views.  Germany, the heartbeat of European civilisation at the start of the 20th century descended into heartless savagery under economic pressures and anyone who thinks it couldn’t happen again is a fool.

We’re not at that point yet, but the euro is now in danger of coming to pieces.  Already, most commentators agree that Greece will have to leave, resulting in mass unemployment, hyper-inflation, social chaos and poverty.  Portugal could go the same way and even Italy, if it fails to confront the systemic corruption that infects its body politic.  Ireland, while not quite over the edge, is certainly peeping into the abyss, and perhaps Spain is too.

What does this mean?

Fascism.  That’s what it means.  Poverty and hardship are the best fertilisers for the invasive weed of nazism, and Europe is now actively spraying its fields with the stuff, as if to encourage the rise of uniformed, self-appointed thugs.

There was a time when Remembrance Sunday was a day for a rapidly-decreasing band of decrepit old comrades, but that day has passed.  From now on, when we contemplate permitting a chaotic disintegration of the European Union, we should turn our eyes to the things these old men have seen and remember the consequences.

As they say in Germany, Nie Wieder!

Never again.




12 thoughts on “Remembrance Sunday

  1. If war is an extension of politics by other means then certain preconditions are already in place , a bit disturbing .

  2. Some people will tell you that Europe has not seen war since 1945, but those people forget what happened when Yugoslavia broke up. War was taking place in Europe ten years ago and it can happen again.

  3. There are plenty of people with political ambitions who feel the need to “save ” their country by what ever means necessary . They usually begin with a flag in their hand and behind it they carry a gun . Think Utöya in Norway summer 2011 .

  4. With professional armies in place in most of Europe the question is are the senior officers so accustomed to deferring to the civil powers that’d they’d take orders from fascists ? Or would they refuse ?

  5. If the fascists became the government, professional officers would have no choice but to take orders, just as the Wehrmacht did. And just as professional officers did in Spain, Croatia and many other countries.

  6. Bock, I’d like to point out that this is not necessarily true. The German army, even during WW2, expected and had very clear rules about this, that officers would refuse to carry out orders they considered illegal. There are quite a few cases where German officers refused to do so and were barely sanctioned at all.
    Of course the problem is that so many of them did choose to follow the orders; it was this principle that in many ways allowed the Nuremberg and other trials to be so sucessful – because the bastards could not hide behind the “just following orders” defence
    That being said, I don’t for a second doubt that Europe is currently full of people just waiting to be told what to do!

  7. While they might not be fascists in the historical sense & most are actually so called socialists. The actions of European governments & Eurocrats in trampling over democratic rights & foisting the cost of the bankers mess onto those who they are supposed to serve & protect, should act as a warning. They really don’t seem to give a damn about their electorates. So imagine what really bad guys could do. We are all not very different than those who lived in the 1930’s. Our social safety net & democracy are but a blink of the eye in terms of human history, take for granted at your peril.

  8. Från tolv miljoner döda kan jag hälsa er ” Aldrig mera krig ! ” . 1914 -1918 . From twelve million dead I can greet you ” Never again “.

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